In celebration of Women’s History Month, the world reflects on the incredible achievements and contributions of women across various fields. In past years, women have been excluded from crucial societal positions. They fought to the top, as evident in various government positions they hold worldwide. Women continue to break barriers and shatter glass ceilings, making their mark in previously male-dominated spaces. One may think that Africa has been left out, and men are still involved in all decision-making regarding the country. This is far from the truth as today I present a phenomenal woman from Angola, Esperança da Costa, the first female Vice President of Angola, whose passion for biodiversity has led her to become a leading voice on conservation and sustainability.
In a recent interview with Hariana Verás, the White House Permanent Correspondent for Angola, the Vice President Esperança da Costa emphasized the importance of valuing the work of women and recognizing their contribution to society. Women, she noted, have been making significant strides in Africa and are increasingly participating in democratization efforts, conflict management, and peace-building initiatives. They have also been at the forefront of conservation efforts, playing a vital role in preserving natural resources, building resilience, and strengthening communities in the face of extreme events caused by climate change.
Vice President da Costa acknowledges that Africa has come a long way in empowering women and eliminating the obstacles that previously hindered their development. “In the past, women were often denied access to education and opportunities that were deemed suitable only for men. However, through collective efforts and various legislative instruments, including the 2020/2030 agenda, the Africa strategy that seeks to achieve the 2063 vision, and other policies of the African Union, women are now occupying leadership positions and making significant contributions to their communities and countries.” Said the Vice President.
Esperança da Costa is a biologist and Angolan politician who rose to power following the victory of the Movement for the Liberation of Angola in the august 2022 elections. She became the first woman to be elected Vice President of the Republic of Angola. As she recalls, her political journey started naturally back in school when she strived to become the leader of different committees to serve the country.
Despite being the Vice President, Esperança da Costa chairs several national committees: National Multisectoral Commission, National Water Council, National Council for Roads and Traffic Planning, and the National Commission for the Fight against HIV. / AIDS and Major Endemic Diseases, and also supervising the education portfolio aimed at improving primary learning.
Esperança does all this and still manages to take care of her family as a wife, mother, and grandmother because she strongly believes in the power of a woman. She believes that “Angolan women are in a position to spread their wings since the government has invested so much in women’s education, balanced development, gender equality, and empowerment.” She acknowledges women as warriors and advises them to be resilient, not to fear, not to allow exclusion, and not to be affected by existing stereotypes such as dropping out of school. The Vice President urged Angolan women to view education as the base for empowerment and engage themselves in inspirational groups to grow and be able to serve the country.
In addition to conservation, Vice President da Costa is working to address the challenges of climate change, which pose a significant threat to Africa’s development. “Angola has a national strategy until 2035 that focuses on adapting to climate change and building resilience among communities. The country is taking steps to end drought in the south and provide its populations with the necessary conditions for agriculture, thereby ensuring food security.” Vice President Esperança da Costa is a trailblazer who has broken barriers and made significant contributions to conservation, sustainability, and development in Angola. Her passion for biodiversity and commitment to empowering women is an inspiration to many, and her efforts have put Angola on the path to a sustainable and prosperous future. “As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us recognize and value the critical role that women play in society and continue to support their efforts to create positive change.”
As a researcher, Vice President da Costa has authored books on biodiversity, including books about plants that are at risk of extinction. These books evaluate the dangers that different species in Angola face and make recommendations for how to safeguard them. She has also been influential in the development of the Center of Botany at Agostinho Neto University. This center’s primary goals are to take an inventory of Angola’s plant cover and evaluate the state of the country’s ecosystems and habitats. The Vice President emphasizes that conservation efforts are crucial to support governance and promote the sustainable exploitation of natural resources, which will, in turn, lead to economic growth and development. Angola, with its vast coastline and high marine productivity, is investing in mapping its natural resources to better manage them and ensure the well-being of its population.